Monthly Archives: May 2014

Come hell or high water. Me and you? We are standing.

Sometimes the battle isn’t about fighting harder, but just staying on the field. Standing come hell or high water. Me and you? We are still standing…

If I could look into your eyes I’d let you know that I see you there. A bit down the road from me. I see you trying your best to hold on with all your might to the little plot of ground you are fighting for. Mustering all your strength to fight against the headwind and recover from the blows that nearly take you out. The reason I see you is because I am here too. Standing on my own plot of ground…

This is a day where there just isn’t anything to do but stand. I sit here with tears brimming in my eyes because this little heart of mine is tired. My feet are sore from trying to claim this patch of land – this promise – for so long. I ache from maintaining uncomfortable postures. Twisting around the obstacles that try to tangle me – bending to keep myself just out of reach from their fatal grasp.

I first came to this place several years ago. Decided to make it my home and chose to see the future with eyes of faith. Chose to believe that God could do the impossible with me here. At first it looked like a great spot for a picnic on my new grassy plot. Lay out a blanket and enjoy the little nest I’d made with yummy food and tasty drink.

Here I would wait until it came to meet me. The promise I was standing on. But it never came.

It was okay for a while because I was surrounded by others just like me. The dreamers and believers who decided to stake their claims in the Land of Not Yet. We were like pioneers in this new land of ours. The minutes turned to hours. Longer than we anticipated but we adventurers always pack extra supplies and faced the unexpected delay with the gusto of a Broadway musical. After all, we wouldn’t be here forever. Would we?

Month after month the strength I found in numbers began to fade. My mountainside friends spotted their dream beckoning them to come and enjoy the new relationship, job, baby, adventure, personal breakthrough, clean bill of health… whatever it was. Their number had been drawn and they got to leave their humble plot to go claim their promise.

And now, here I am. Nearly alone on this mountainside. It’s hard to tell the ghosts from the visions anymore.

Through this foggy sense of no longer knowing how to fight this battle, I see you. I see you out here just like me. Seemingly alone on a piece of ground that once represented all the good things you hoped for, but now only reminds you of all the things you are no longer quite sure of. I know there are more of us, thousands perhaps. But right now, I just see us. You and me. Camping out here. And I hate camping.

Maybe you are one of the ones who packed up your lawn chair awhile ago and are in the middle of everything you dreamed of. If that’s you, I’m glad you got what you were believing for. Sure, I have my bad days and I get envious. But really, really I am glad for you. And while you are finishing off that last party cupcake, say a prayer for those of us still living off our rations.

To my fellow hillside dwellers, I’d like to tell you what I am learning. There is power in standing – remaining. 

“…and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:13

When your legs won’t hold you up anymore? Kneel- it’s okay to be tired. When your eyes can no longer look for hope through your weary lids? Close your eyes and remember. Remember what led you to that little patch of promise in the first place.

There is nothing we can do to make it happen faster. No way of controlling the weather out here and the situations we have to navigate as we keep believing that someday, someday soon God will come and get us too. Through the heartache, stand. Through the storm that strips of everything we had, stand. Through the calendar days flipping past, stand.

Eloquent speech is not required. A bigger faith is not demanded. Right here? This is about standing friend. Even when we slouch on the heavy days, it’s about standing. Staying right where we are because despite it all, we are people who believe.

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Sex, Money and Ordinary People

 

A GOD WHO IS WORTH

If it had been a Hollywood film, this is where the attractive actors would look meaningfully into the distance and the soundtrack would intensify. Then with a series of brilliant shots and carefully selected music your emotions would explode with the power of the moment. The moment when everything changes.

But this is real life. And it came as a text while I was doing dishes this afternoon. 

The message said the young woman our team at UnBound had been advocating for was going to be heading to a safe house. Even as I type this out she must be settling into the idea of a new home. A place where her life will not be threatened, where her birthday will be remembered when it rolls around each year and no one – no one will own her body.

I can’t tell you her name or the details of the story, but I can tell you that she is a survivor now. No longer a victim of human trafficking – she is free. After years of being forced to have sex for money, she is free.

Our team who worked on this case alongside local law enforcement are phenomenal people. I wish I could name them and recount their efforts one-by-one. But they are very ordinary. Stay at home moms, lawyers, pastors, teachers…normal people. As much as I love them, they are not superheros. Just dreamers who aren’t scared of a fight.

People who believe this world is not too far gone. Not too far gone to keep trying.

Average people who decided to show up to life and make a difference. They put their game face on and look evil in the eye. ‘Cause they serve a God who is bigger and a cause that is worthy. 

When I got the text this afternoon, I found myself thinking that this isn’t the way things like this are supposed to go down. If Martin Scorsese was directing, news wouldn’t break with a simple text in the middle of cleaning my house. That’s how stuff like this works though. Between emails and sips of coffee. Squeezed into pockets of time between the busyness of work and family.

Yea, there are days in my life that sound pretty legit. A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with FBI agents, a congressman and his staff. While it may seem impressive, it was just people around a table. People trying to figure out how we can solve a problem. I wasn’t Erin Brockovich and I didn’t have solutions tied up with pretty bows.  Just there to say, “Hey, I’m here and I want to help.”

‘Cause that’s really all any of us can do. Just show up with what we have and help where we can. There are no blue ribbons for the best answers or dress codes monitoring who looks the part. You. You fit the part friend. You who only have a few hours a month to serve at a soup kitchen. You in the middle of your depression offering a smile to  a stranger. You who can write checks for thousands of dollars. All of us. Together, giving what we’ve got.

If you come here often you hear me talk about  Something Bigger. That internal voice or impression that you are made for more than you are living right now. A desire to make an impact and shift things around. I believe we are all destined for something bigger.

The text I got today at 4:16 pm confirmed it. I was so proud of my friends and teammates who are working one case at a time to see modern-day slavery put to an end. The are showing up – day in, day out. Volunteering the skills and time they can humbly offer. They are the ones who chisel new messages in the pages  of history. Reminders that giving up isn’t an option.

I don’t know what is in your heart to do, but I know it matters that you do it. The world is breaking down all around us and it’s time we show up. For the lonely commuter next to us every morning to the victim of sex trafficking on the internet.

I’m calling on all you destined for Something Bigger who are wondering if showing up will really matter or not with all this chaos. Know what? It matters. You are a mover & a shaker. An ordinary person with an extraordinary God. See you tomorrow everyone, armed with hope and big dreams. Let’s take the world by storm.

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Hope Is The New Black

 Consider this your Monday morning pep talk. 

the new black

Hope: to expect with confidence (Merriam Webster)

We have each felt it. All of humanity since the creation of dreams. Hope. It elevates and stabs simultaneously. The desire for something to come. The expectation of an unfulfilled promise or destiny. Or perhaps simply a wish. Despite the size or seeming significance, our lives somehow hang in the balance of this anticipation of the things we are waiting for.

The belief that we are made for SOMETHING BIGGER. Something bigger than this pain, this fleeting joy, this small thinking and this box which can no longer hold all the parts of us. Something meaningful that makes a difference and does a small part to change the world. We hope that there is more to our lives than where we are right now.

We hope our dreams were really worth risking on. That we won’t be left with bitterness in one hand and a stack of bounced checks in the other. That love would really last and our imaginations would craft beautiful, safe places for us. That despite the opposition, all of our shots would be a bullseye. 

Hope goes with everything. It’s the new black. —> click to tweet

If we are going to really expect good things with confidence then we have to grab onto hope with both hands. An all in kind of commitment.

Just like our ambitions, we have to invest in hope.

Investing in hope will cost you. It will cost you the recurring dread, the excuses you replay, and your list of failures. Hope will require you give up your fear of failing and all the ways you justify your wounds. Investing in hope will cost you all of your mediocre living.

There are the obvious upsides to hope.

Some days hope is like a peppy Ellie Goulding song that makes you want to roll down your windows and drive until you land in a new city. A place that has been waiting for you to arrive since it was built. A place that you somehow intuitively know your way around in already. Hope makes us want to jump ’cause we believe where we land is gonna be better.

There are also painful sides to hope.

In fact, hope hurts. 

A friend of mine recently lost her daughter. She isn’t trying to conquer the world right now, she is just trying wake up in the morning and somehow stumble through the day without breaking too badly before nightfall. With heartache this heavy, her hope is to be able to breathe. To expect with confidence that someday, the weight will be lighter and easier to manage.

Hope is just like the color black. It goes with everything. The joyful weddings and the crushing funerals. Hope is always the best accessory regardless the scenario.

Situations, projections and fears don’t matter. If you feel like the wicked witch or the fairest of them all – you can put on hope. It looks good on you. Hope brings out the best parts of who you were meant to be and calls you out of all your excuses.

One of my favorite Bible verses says, “Those who hope in the Lord will not be disappointed.” (Psalm 25:3)

Whether this Monday finds you fist-bumping at all the possibilities or drenched in self-doubt…it doesn’t really matter. Those things ebb and flow. Hope doesn’t. Hope is the rock, the stability, the center.

Go ahead. Invest in it. Hope is the new black.

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Pages have expiration dates

Because I love you, I must tell you to turn the page.

pages

 

Life is about so many things. The relationships we hold, the values we believe, the things we dream as we swing our legs off kitchen counters. Our stories are woven over long summer days and countless conversations we have while drinking overpriced coffee.

Like any good story, our lives need several great elements. The characters, the plots, the emotions that come out with every twist and turn. But there is one element that is the hardest to come to terms with in our lives. Timing.

Timing is everything.

And I gotta tell you friend. Sometimes we just don’t get timing. Sometimes we just can’t seem to turn the page.

The paragraphs may be good, exciting and everything you’ve dreamed. What a shame to move on to the rest of the story when this page is so perfect. Moving on would mean loosing this.

Could be that the page is a total failure. Our worst nightmare. The most unimpressive parts of us put down onto the paper. The words we shouldn’t have said and the actions we know we will regret. Temptation is to keep re-reading it. Trying to figure out how to change it. Desperate to find the edit button and fix the mess. Moving on would mean accepting it for what it is. 

But dare I say it? The page has an expiration date.

I’m not sure what it is, but humans have this odd reasoning that if we don’t let something go, then it stays. It doesn’t stay. It moves on with or without us.

Yet we get stuck. We embed ourselves into this one place too afraid to leave. To frustrated to leave. To happy to leave. But life builds. It always builds.

We’ve got to turn the page or we never see how it ends. Where does the dream take us? What does happily ever after look like? How powerful can our redemption actually be?

No matter how great the present is, it will go sour if we don’t let it grow and morph into what it is already becoming. You and I are constantly outgrowing our lives. New days demand new ideas. New ambitions and strategies. Keeping a growing kid in their old toddler clothes doesn’t stop them from growing. It just makes them uncomfortable and awkward. And it ruins the clothes, turning a sweet memory into torn fabric.

Life doesn’t stop for perfection. We don’t have the option for a million edits. The words said at the wrong time, the choice that threw everything off course. It is what it is. Something may happen in the future to salvage it but you have to get there to find out.

Stop reliving yesterday’s happiness and find the courage to seek out today’s.

Stop reliving your failure. You don’t belong there anymore.

Whatever you are stuck on. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s expired. There is a new thing waiting for you.

Go on. Turn the page friend. It’s about to expire. And the next chapter is oh-so-good.

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Mother’s Day. Why I will celebrate and why I will cry.

 

family pictures017

My beautiful mom back when we lived in Russia.

Today in the United States we celebrate Mother’s Day. There will be flowers, chocolates, homemade cards and phone calls to mothers. It is a day we set aside to celebrate and thank the incredible women who birthed and raised us. Mother’s Day is a beautiful thing.

But I have to be honest. I think we sell Mother’s Day a bit short.

Motherhood is worth celebrating.

I will celebrate today with thankfulness at the two little kids in my home. (One of them keeps interrupting this blog post to show me the newest snail he found in the backyard.) Their early morning cuddles, the way I can calm their fears just by holding them, their hilarious thoughts and creative ways of seeing the world. I can not imagine life without them. My children are the best parts of me.

I smile with joy for the friends who get to celebrate their very first Mother’s Day this year. The new babies that this year has brought to sweet friends who spent years longing for them. Happy Mother’s day new mamas. Soak in every drop.

I will honor all the women around me who mother so well. The ones with healthy families, the ones whose children require extra care, the women who look after other’s children as if they were their own. All the women who are brave enough to love a child unconditionally. Especially my own mom – who deserves her own theme song and fireworks to follow her.

Today is also a day with streaks of sadness.

I think about the baby I lost in between my daughter and my son. I wonder what he or she would have been like and who they would have grown into. All the bedtime stories I didn’t get to read and all the evenings snuggling on the couch doing nothing but simply being together. Today there are multitudes of women like me – who ache for the children that are no longer with them on this earth.

Each morning I think about the two children we are adopting from Burundi. Today is the fourth Mother’s Day I will have spent waiting for them to join our family. Gritting my teeth and praying that by this time next year they will be here with me. Fighting the lie that this is one more year lost. So many women feel that way today. One more year gone without the child they were hoping for.

Mother’s Day to me is not so much about honoring the role of mom, but about celebrating the capacity of the women to be mothers.

I have seen motherhood in action and it is a powerful thing. Professionals who advocate and fight for the rights of minors. Moms who sit beside their autistic children refusing to let a diagnosis define them. Nurses who care for the sick and dying. Businesswomen who support projects to improve the lives of others around the world. Those who spend their days intentionally loving and giving despite their own needs. Not all of these women have their own children, but they encompass the definition of motherhood so well.

” Motherhood: is 24/7 on the frontlines of humanity.” – Maria Shriver

To the women who are knee deep in laundry or college tuition bills – thank you for raising kids. For giving them your hours, your bodies and your hearts.

To the women who are meeting today with the ache of loss – thank you for loving so deeply even though it caused you pain.

To the women still filled with longing for the kids you don’t have – I see you. Thank you for not giving up.

There is so much to celebrate today beyond the high-five to the mom in the park (although, that would totally make my day).

Take time to notice the women around you. The women who selflessly pour into children that will never call them “mom”. The ones who will courageously attend another baby shower for a friend even though it rubs on the tender place of disappointment within them. The women who give their days and nights to wiping noses and taking care of their own kids needs. These women are all worth celebrating and support the broader meaning of motherhood. They spend their lives on the frontlines of humanity. They are mothers in their own right.

So to all the women who mother – physically, emotionally, spiritually. This one’s for you babe. Happy Mother’s Day.

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I’m sorry, did you say cancer? And thoughts on “getting over it”

I asked the nurse practitioner what it could be. She replied, “Well, it could be nothing. Or it could be cancer.” And this is what I learned…

get over it real

 

 

I’ve had a myth in my head for far too long. A myth that said when things get hard – unbearable even – you have to just keep moving and eventually it will pass. Head down, hand to the plow…keep moving. Get past this and it will be okay on the other side.

Advice was a lot easier to give when I was in my early 20s.

“You’ve just got to get over it.”  That was usually my advice. Maybe because I thought time was supposed to heal everything just like the Hallmark cards prophesied. Skimming past a situation with your fingers crossed that it won’t be too tragic is a solution. Get over it. Skip it and pray it never catches up to you.

As I’ve gotten older I have realized the faultiness of my advice. It seems life’s arm has gotten stronger and the curveballs it throws are harder and leave bigger marks. There are some things we can’t just get over.

Last week I started having unusual symptoms. I went to the doctor who was equally concerned. Tests were scheduled for this week. I was told that it could be cancer. Maybe other things were said, but that was pretty much all I heard.

For the next five days I had to try and live life as usual until test results came back in. I realize that for many people dealing with illnesses waiting five days isn’t too bad, but for me it was almost unbearable. Waiting to find out if you have a tumor or not hangs over each minute no matter how hard you try not to think about it.

By the time Saturday morning rolled around I discovered that I had two choices. I could go on, pushing through my days acting like everything was okay. Ignore the problem and it will go away. Ignore the thought patterns and eventually they will blur into everyday thoughts. I could wait until the situation changed and then my fear would subside.

I could learn how to cope like this. I could “get over it”. 

Or I could walk through it. Acknowledge the moments my heart started to panic and resist the urge to drown myself with aimless distractions. Stop hiding from the distress that surfaced with every quiet moment. Ask the hard questions. Throw punches at Jesus for bringing me to a place that didn’t feel safe.

I wrestled with myself, my imagination and the beliefs I desperately wanted to cling to. In the end I had a deep internal peace. Whatever the lab results told me, I was going to be okay. Tumor or no tumor, I decided I wouldn’t let fear dictate how I lived.

On Tuesday I got the tests back. It was not cancer.

There could have been another outcome. I could have just “gotten over it”. Shoved all the flaring emotions under the bed. Taking a deep breath when the news came in that I was fine. Then resume business as usual, keeping the debris of my heart hidden beneath the bed. Hoping it doesn’t slide out when the next hurdle in life comes.

And that is what happens when we try to get over it. It is out of sight but never quite gone. Slowly making its way back into the middle of our lives when we aren’t looking. Jumping at us whenever the next situation triggers it.

This is the myth so many of us believe when it comes to moving past our pain and weakness.

We stuff every moment with business or mind-numbing media. Some choose to fill their glasses with elixirs to make them forget and others laugh on cue – God forbid anyone see them cry. We work like puppets praying that someday – hopefully soon – we will wake up and it will be gone. All the pain, fear and insecurity.

Maybe one day we will wake up to realize we are no longer being hunted by the shadows of our past. But it has been my experience that things are rarely “gotten over”. They are ignored and avoided, but never conquered.

Sometimes the best way to get over something, is to just go through it. —> click to tweet

I wonder what would happen if we chose to just walk straight through our fires. If we quit trying to tame our pain into bitesize pieces that we have to digest for the rest of our lives. Sometimes our mountains we face just can’t be ignored anymore. We’ve got to cross those cliffs and walk through the forests. Cause there is no getting over something like this.

There is no getting over your breakup, your loss, your abuse, your addiction, your diagnosis or your shame.

There is just getting through it.

Acknowledging instead of ignoring. Looking at the photos, feeling the pain. Laying on the cold tile ’cause there is no easy recovery from a blow like this. Crying the tears and writing out the words your heart utters silently inside. Letting ourselves grieve the things we have lost or the fear of what may be. Going there bravely when everything in us screams to run away.

We don’t sit down or give up. We don’t walk around it. We simply walk through it – asking God to carry us when we are past the point of our own strength.

Look around you, friend. I’m not sure where your feet are standing at the moment. I don’t know what you are needing to walk through right now.

But you are destined for good places. Beautiful things are ahead for you – the kind that take your breath away for all the right reasons. Take heart friends. You can get through this.

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May 5, 2014 · 12:09 am